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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Inner View

For the next several installments, we’re going to take an in-depth look at interviews and interviewing techniques.

While this subject doesn’t fall exclusively in the area of voice and diction, the complex psychological interactions are very definitely a part of the work we do in the area of performance. It’s a special kind of performance to be sure, but good interviewing techniques can literally make or break your broadcast performance.

Over the course of the last two years alone, I have conducted over 3,000 interviews on virtually every topic imaginable. Some were wonderfully poignant and moving in and of themselves, others were part of a bigger story or project. Many were duds, either because of my lack of preparation or the subjects emotional remoteness. Most were simply a means to an end: getting someone else to say things that can be recorded and which will inform and perhaps entertain audiences. There is a wide variety of interviews: some that are intended simply to evoke an emotional response; some to simply pass on information, others to illustrate a deeper reality about a given story. Most, however, have much in common with one another, and that is what we will examine.

Interestingly, even though we will be discussing interviews and interviewing technique in the context of journalistic efforts, the rules are virtually identical for employment or back ground interviews never intended for a wider audience.

The psychological forces that make a good employment interview work just as well in a journalistic interview.

Most interviews entail a kind of seduction. This is not meant in a sexual sense, though there can be a kind of erotic tension in many good interviews. Rather, we think of interviews as a way to win over a subject, to gain their confidence, to earn their trust, and to convince them that it is safe to reveal truths about themselves and their situation. Frankly, the fundamental psychological goal of any interview is to get the subject to like you, to be drawn to your sense of empathy. This is as true interviewing a death row inmate as it is a pop star. It implies that we are not simply getting information from our subject, but in the larger sense, getting an emotional insight into the person while they reveal the information that is vital for your story.

This concept of willing seduction, of a cooperative choreography underlies all the guidelines that will follow in the coming weeks.

I will also illustrate the guidelines from examples of interviews that by most accounts would have to be considered successful, in both gaining that emotional insight, and sharing information.

So, breathe deeply, and let’s get started.

Next week: background research.